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Sergeant Charles Alfred Dilley

7537 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment

Son of Mr George Albert and Mrs Sarah Dilley
Husband of Sarah (nee Clark)

Aged 29 years

Died 18th August 1916

Commemorated at Cerisy-Gailly French National Cemetery
Grave I. G.18

Born at Rushden, enlisted at Northampton.
Researched by John Newell, 2007
Charles Alfred Dilley was born on the 16th Sept, 1886 in Rushden the son of George Albert Dilley and Sarah King. He was one of seven children. His grandparents James and Mary Dilley had moved the family from the Meppershall/Clifton area of Bedfordshire to Wymington about 1874. James and the eldest son William worked on the railway as platelayers and the family lived in Dilleys Lodge, Wymington.

Charles' father George moved into Rushden and became a bootmaker working from home in High Street South.

Charles had six brothers and sisters and they lost their mother in 1904 when she died in child birth. In the same year Charles had a daughter born to Sarah CLARK. Charles and Sarah married in 1905 and Charles worked as a shoe operative. He also became part of the regular army.

When war broke out in 1914 he was one of the first to be sent out to France. By this time Charles and Sarah had five children. He lost his life on the 18th August, 1916 and Sarah had another daughter born one week after.

The tragedy did not end there. The strain of looking after six children, plus she never got over losing Charles, Sarah died in 1920 leaving six children orphaned. They were split up and went to various homes in Rushden and were never really encouraged to keep in touch with each other and it is only in the last few years that cousins and family members have really got to know one another.

Rushden Echo, 18th December 1914

Lance-Corporal Charles Dilley

"Ypres was the roughest of all battles and the man who has stood it all from the beginning to there is a marvel. Nearly every soldier is suffering from shattered nerves as a result of the continual strain and hard living." Lance-Corporal Charles Dilley (Rushden), of the 2nd Northants, made the remark to a Rushden Echo representative this week in an interview. He had been wounded in the leg by a German bullet and arrived home recently.

"The man who shot me was no more than three yards away and two out of five of us were hit at the same time. It was at Ypres one evening at dusk about a month ago. I was in charge of four men patrolling in advance of the company. Going along a country road we were fired on from a ditch in which were a few Germans, probably on the same errand as ourselves. The other man who got hit was wounded in both arms but his body was missed. It might have been the same bullet that struck us both.

"There is no denying that the German soldiers are plucky and can fight like a trained soldier should. They had more Maxims and better artillery generally than we had. And we had been there two days without food and marching all the time. There was, of course, any amount of fruit, and we had to get what we could of that. Every man is supposed to have emergency rations but these were soon gone.

"Going back we found the countryside very different. We passed along almost the same line but where the Germans had stopped there were plenty of signs of their handiwork. But although I saw many wrecked homes, in all truthfulness I didn't see any dead bodies of women or children, either French or Belgian. Of course, there may have been some in the houses, but none were to be seen on the roads. A thing that causes a lot of cursing is the idiotic talk about supplying the soldiers at the front with footballs! Just imagine being within about 80 yards of the enemy's entrenchments and trying to play football! All these things tend to make the soldier think the public do not try to understand the difficulties that we had to face; snow, rain and cold winds nearly freeze you. Bullets are continually whistling by, shells flying about and Jack Johnsons roaring overhead and falling with tremendous explosions. If, in the daytime, you raise your head to have a shot at the Germans in the opposing trenches, you are likely to get a bullet through your skull.

"There is a lot said about soldiers pinching each other's kit, but they will always share a fag. When you get right into the firing line all men are equal - officers, non-commissioned officers and men. There is no attempt on the part of officers to order you about. It would be useless. Every man looks after himself, that is, of course, apart from charging and retreating. If a man disgraces himself out there he doesn't bother always to face it out. I have known cases of where such men have deliberately exposed themselves and got shot.

"I had been fighting practically side by side with my brother. He is one of the best brothers a man could wish for, he got wounded in the chin but refused to go to base because he wanted to be near me. When I got hit I shouted to tell him. He replied, but I could not catch what he said." Lance-Corporal Dilley said he thought the Germans had been guilty of all the atrocities of which they had been accused. He had seen children with their hands cut off, and others in a miserable condition. English doctors would always run to the rescue as soon as they saw sufferers in this terrible plight, as was often the case on the advance from Paris. Belgium could hardly be called a country, he said, it was more like a great brick-yard! Wounded soldiers are looked after in a splendid fashion and provided with all sorts of comforts.

Rushden Echo - Friday 1st September 1916

A Rushden NCO Killed - A Victim To Shell Explosion

Several letters have been received by different people in the district during the last few days in which the news is contained that Sergt. Charles Dilley of 10 Pratt Road, Rushden, was killed in action in France on August 17th in the British offensive. No official news has been received up to today, but we are afraid that the unofficial reports leave no room for doubt as to Sergt. Dilley's death. A cousin of the deceased, Private Harold Dilley of Finedon, writes that he saw his cousin killed and also witnessed his funeral. A local soldier in the same regiment, writing home, says that the unfortunate soldier's head was half blown off by the explosion of a shell.

Sergt. C. Dilley, aged 29, who was a son of Mr G. Dilley of 11 North Street, Rushden and also a nephew of Mrs Cox, High Street South, Rushden, leaves a widow and 6 children, one only being born a few days ago. The widow has naturally received great shock, but she is progressing well. The deceased soldier formerly worked at Mr Fred Knight's shoe factory. Being a 'regular', he was sent out to France with the first of the British contingents. He was very lucky for some time, and then at the Battle of Loos, he was wounded and sent home. However he went out again only to lose his life in the latest British offensive.

Rushden Echo, September 8 1916, transcribed by Clive Wood

Rushden Soldier Reported Killed

It is reported by many soldiers that Sergt. Charles Dilley (Northants Regiment) husband of Mrs Dilley of 10 Pratt-road, Rushden, was killed in action on August 17th. The messages, including one from Sergt. Dilley's cousin, seem to leave no room for doubt. Sergt. Dilley was 29 years old and leaves a widow and six children. The deceased used to work at Mr Fred Knight's factory. Being a regular soldier, he went out with the first British Contingent.

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